When I moved to NZ in 1997, one happy aspect that I had not considered prior to arrival was that I was headed back to the Southern Hemisphere. That meant that Xmas and New Year’s are summer events (well, most of the time), and my childhood memories are littered with snippets of summers gone by spent in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Although I also spent many years in the Northern Hemisphere and came to embrace, within limits, the winter version of the holiday season, the prolonged interlude that is the Southern Hemisphere festive season has always been my preference.

In the winter version the return to work and school routines is quick, with no more than 2 weeks of down time usually taken between Xmas and New Years. The further North one goes the less incentive there is to holiday: the days are short, wet and very cold, when not frozen. In the South the turn of the year is a turn to warmth and light so the incentive is to maximize exposure to them as well as take respite from work and other daily routines. Annual and sick leaves are extended and mixed in order to maximize the statutory holidays. Commodified life cuts back to idle so that personal and inter-personal issues can be addressed and renewed at some length.

How one spends one’s time depends on the nature and proximity of those relationships. I have spent several years of solitude, North and South, over the year end hiatus, which gave plenty of room to reflect on my condition while otherwise occupying time. I have had an equal if not greater number of holidays spent with family and friends, to include family in New Zealand. What strikes me in either instance is that the summertime makes the experience better: there is more to physically do outdoors, there is less corporate incentive to rush back to work,  the nature of social events is more open, and things just get silly.

In a way, the Southern Hemisphere year end holidays are a turn inwards as well as renewal. The point of reflection and the pause to refresh are simply longer in summer. It may give the appearance to some (in the North) of a sleepy third world village approach to life. To  me it simply represents a better way to spend a holiday.

Better than marching like lemmings to shopping malls and fighting grid-locked traffic in the search for a better bargain (which pretty much sums of the notions of commodity fetishism and false consciousness). The consumerist lemming movement appears to have taken root in NZ and the vehicular exodus to choice destination spots is often akin to driving across Manhattan at rush hour. Even so, in NZ as in other Southern Hemisphere locations, the summer holiday experience is preferable to that in the Northern Hemisphere. The global North may have the doldrums of July and August to disport in (and my exposure to Southern Europe in summer suggests that pretty much everything is put on hold for the duration), but they do not have the holidays to enjoy at the same time. The global middle–those from 20 degrees North to 20 degrees South–take their holidays more leisurely, given the distribution of pre-modern, modern, colonial, imperial and post-modern identifications.

Which is to say that I hope that NZ and other Southern Hemisphere readers are taking full advantage of their down time. As our first full summer back in NZ after 3 years away, my partner and I have spent the holidays quietly, mostly devoted to garden and landscape work, dog training, some small varmint hunting and the inevitable bbqs (although mine are done Argentine-style), with a little bit of reading and writing thrown in. Whatever suits your fancy and wherever you are, I hope that yours has been as restful as ours and wish you all the best for a productive and happy New Year, Southern Hemisphere style.


6 thoughts on “Sleepytime.

  1. I don’t really think the commodification of Christmas was something that originated in the Northern Hemisphere (except to the degree that the whole holiday did).

  2. Have you ever considered how incredibly privileged and rich your life experience has been compared to most? And why, unlike the majority of your peers of comparative privilege, you seem to favour a left-wing solution to the world’s problems?

    Just wondering (and trying to incite!)

  3. ak: Indeed, I am very thankful for the life experiences I have had, some of which I owe to my parents and others that were of my own choosing, some of which were good and some of which were not. I also realize that when compared to others in similar circumstances, my ideological preferences are somewhat different and contrarian. But then again, it is my life experiences that have provided me with the ideological compass with which I navigate. That makes me a black sheep in such circles, which suits me just fine.

  4. tochigi:

    Argentine barbecues, known as parrilladas, are mixed meat affairs where the grill is raised or lowered on a hardwood charcoal fire depending on the cut of meat and temperature of the coals. The fire takes about 1-2 hours to burn down to a good charcoal base and needs to be re-stoked depending on the number of people served (a firebox on the side of the grill provides additional charcoal). The grill itself is grooved and tilted so that fat flows into a trough at the bottom of the grill, leaving the meat greaseless. Raising and lowering the grill also allows for better control of the cooking, since medium rare, rare and well-done can be cooked together by arranging the meat higher or lower on the tilted grill. All in all, a marvelous way to cook all sorts of meat (fish and veggies too).

    My parrilla is about a meter wide and 750 c deep and is raised and lowered by chains attached to a rotating bar manipulated by a handle. It is housed in a 2.5 meter tall brick oven-like structure with a chimney hat. That allows me to work the grill at waist to chest height while the smoke is channeled up and away from the meat (there is enough flavor in the coals so smoking the meat is unnecessary). The design is elegant in its simplicity and easy to clean. I have pictures of the thing but do not know how to insert them into this comment box.

    I have cooked some pretty good meals on the parrilla, but what I really need is to find a butcher in AK who knows how to make Argentine cuts of meat, since the way Kiwis cut meat is different to the way Argentines do things. For someone raised in Argentina, that means I am missing out on some old favorite cuts (to say nothing of Argentine beef itself, which tends to be grass-fed Black Angus).

    Anyway, I hope that gives you an idea of what “Argentine-style” means.

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